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Hills of Africa Travel?

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Apr 18th, 2007, 07:09 PM
  #1
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Hills of Africa Travel?

Does anyone have any experience with this US based travel agency? They seem to take responsible tourism, and fair trade in tourism very seriously.
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Apr 19th, 2007, 01:42 PM
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I guess no one knows them? That ought to tell me something, also...
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Apr 19th, 2007, 04:52 PM
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It is telling: But I think that it says more about the posters on the board than the company.

I know the two ladies who run it, Meredith Hill is one of the principals... I have dealt withy her in the past and she DOES only use companies that qualify with the fair trade in tourism acreditation.

She is not one of the regularly recognised operators that frequent these boards and if she does she is modest and does not reveal her identity.

I have not travelled with her, but bevause I am involved in Africa have had dealings with her and respect her a great deal: I would imagine that she offers pretty decent itineraries too.
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Apr 19th, 2007, 06:09 PM
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Mkhonzo brings up a good point about our collective knowledge or lack thereof. Bradt, Rough Guides, Lonely Planet, Fodors and Frommers guide books are a good source of operators as well.
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Apr 19th, 2007, 06:45 PM
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I was hesitant to post this, because as a newb to this forum, I have seen that some of the people who post here are operators (is that the right word) although it is fun trying to figure people out from their user id. I have been hanging out on the Europe forum off and on for the last year or so, and that is very different, but so is Europe...
But, one can wonder a little - with the almost obssesive researching that I have been doing here and elsewhere, I have done a lot of the leg work that a tour operator would do for me. I think I know which countries and camps I want to visit, and I definitely know when we will go.

So, what will a tour operator do for me?
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Apr 19th, 2007, 07:37 PM
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I am not an agent even though I will advocate for using one. My comments relate more to Southern Africa than East Africa and it looks like thatís where you are headed anyway.

If you choose Wilderness Safari camps or activities, you must have an agent. Wilderness only sells through agents; that's their business model. Kwando too, I'm pretty sure.

The agent also arranges charter flights and small planes, whose schedules are not as reliable as regular airlines.

For much of Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and parts of South Africa, there is no savings by going direct. You pay the same to the camp as you would to an agent. (I have been offered a 10% discount once, but then I'd be doing my own flights and arranging my other camps. Not worth it.)

In Namibia with the self drive options, I think you can save by going direct. In Kruger I think you can save by going direct. Haven't been there, though.

Since I travel alone, I like to have a reputable company backing me up because I donít know how much clout I carry on my own if problems arise. Very few problems have ever occurredóI can recall a cancelled internal flight by a national carrier and some unrest in an area just prior to my departure. Without an agent, I would have been stranded for days as others were with the airline problem. And for the unrest I might not have been able to change all of my travel plans from one country to another last minute, including international flights with no penalties.

You can even mix and match. In 2008 I booked directly for the Cape Town part of my trip buy am using an agent for the safari part.

So do you have an itinerary yet?
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Apr 19th, 2007, 08:25 PM
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Thank you Lynn, and mkhonzo, for your thoughtful answers. Yes, Lynn, what you said about using an operator is just what I thought.

No, I have not decided on an itinerary yet. My main hang up is Namibia - I very much want to go there but I don't think we will have the time. I would love to do a desert compare and contrast trip with the Kalahari and the skeleton coast (and a little time in the Okavango as a rest), but I don't think the rest of the family shares my passion for the purity and minimalism of the desert. So about the only things that I have decided on is that we will spend a few days each in San camp, a camp in the grasslands, and one or two wet/dry camps in Okavango as well as a day or two in Victoria Falls - I think the teen aged son would really love to go bungee jumping. I am trying to sample each ecosystem, spending two or three nights in each place so as not to be too hurried. I wish we had more time!!!
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Apr 20th, 2007, 11:07 AM
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Momliz,

Those darn time constraints. That's why so many of us return. Good luck. No bungee jumping for you?
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Apr 21st, 2007, 07:18 AM
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Bungee jumping for me?! Omigosh! I was reduced to tears by the magnificence of the Grand Canyon but couldn't get closer than 5' to the edge. Heights and falling are a problem but I'm thinking that Vic Falls in March should be breathtaking because of the added volume of water since it's the rainy season.

I am now trying to decide between two tour operators - CC Africa, which I guess everyone knows and which has a good reputation, and Hills of Africa which is smaller, but has emailed me some interesting ideas - including some community involvement that they would like to explore. So, will it be a smaller company that is possibly more flexible and able to really tailor a trip, or the larger, more established company that may have more in-country support? And, I would like to support the smaller company as well.
Lynn, I loved your reply to another question about what to ask a tour operator, and will be using that. Decisions, decisions...!
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